10 Great YA Non-Fiction Titles for Teens and Adults
I must confess that I read far more teen fiction than I do YA non-fiction. This truth also applies to the rest of my reading life. This year, though, I’m making a point to find non-fiction I can enjoy. Thankfully, there’s a wide range available. There’s narrative non-fiction (which reads like a good story–even though it’s true), self-help, memoirs, cookbooks, true crime, and more.
YA non-fiction may not get as much buzz as its fiction counterpart, but in recent years there have been more and more options for teens who enjoy reading true stories. Whether your teen loves history, books about financial literacy, graphic memoirs, or celebrity biographies, there’s a non-fiction pick for them on this list.
10 Great YA Non-Fiction Titles for Teens and Adults
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Ever wondered how the atomic bomb was created? This gripping, highly readable narrative non-fiction title addresses that question. It follows the discovery of the weapon and explores the roles of countries across three continents in its creation. If your teens love non-fiction with just as much suspense as fiction, they’ll love this one. It also has an equally fantastic graphic novel adaptation (which I love) if you prefer that format.
It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers) by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah’s memoir chronicles his childhood as a mixed-race boy in South Africa and the start of his career as a comedian. If you loved Noah’s memoir, I have good news! You can safely hand this Young Readers’ Edition to your teens. It’s been modified to suit the age group while retaining the heart and humor in Noah’s stories. This is one of my favorite memoirs ever–prepare to laugh out loud often.
Money Out Loud: All the Financial Stuff No One Taught Us by Berna Anat
One thing schools rarely teach kids is financial literacy. Berna Anat’s new book is aimed at teens on the cusp of adulthood. She discusses everything from budgeting to the struggles marginalized people face in our capitalist society–all in a fun, easy-to-understand tone. The book also includes plenty of illustrations and workbook sections so teens can put their plans in writing.
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
This narrative work of non-fiction is an extraordinary exploration of the deep bond between brothers Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. In this poignant biography, Deborah Heiligman skillfully captures their complex relationship, revealing the profound impact they had on each other's lives and art. With meticulous research and beautiful storytelling, this book offers an engaging journey into the world of two remarkable artists.
Hidden Systems: Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day by Dan Nott
In this graphic non-fiction book, author and illustrator Dan Nott gives readers a peek into the way hidden systems like water supply, electricity, and the internet work. If you’ve ever wondered whether the internet is everywhere or about the history of electrification, this is the book for you. Hand this one to STEM-loving graphic novel fans. Nott’s research shines through in his detailed but fun illustrations.
This is a powerful and essential account of a dark chapter in American history. Colbert skillfully weaves together historical facts, personal narratives, and contemporary reflections, shedding light on the tragic events and their lasting impact. Hand these to kids curious about Black history.
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
I loved this heartfelt, captivating graphic memoir about a girl whose mother brings her from Seoul, Korea to Huntsville, Alabama, on what she thinks is a short trip. Until she discovers that her mother is meeting up with her American boyfriend. Ha's stunning artwork vividly captures the emotions and challenges she faced while navigating cultural differences, identity, and fitting in–and finding belonging in comic art.
Free Lunch by Rex Ogle
While Ogle’s most recent Four Eyes is sweet, this raw and unflinching memoir of his time on his school’s free lunch program sheds light on the harsh realities of poverty and its impact on his life. Ogle's candid storytelling exposes the humiliation, hunger, and injustice he faced, providing an intimate glimpse into the struggle for survival. This is a great book for building empathy in teens and adults alike.
Sunshine by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Jarrett J. Krosoczka is well known for his acclaimed graphic memoir, Hey Kiddo. In Sunshine, he presents a much less traumatic story of his time as a camp counselor for kids with cancer. The illustrations in this book are moving and bring each of these kids to life. The book is enriched with references, pictures, and newspaper clippings about one of the families to whom Krosoczka was particularly close. I loved this heartwarming memoir.
Rising Troublemaker: A Fear Fighter Manual for Teens by Luvvie Ajayi Jones
In this young readers edition of her New York Times bestseller Professional Troublemaker, Luvvie Ajayi Jones uses her honesty and humor to inspire teens to be their bravest, boldest, truest selves, in order to create a world they would be proud to live in.
Reading non-fiction can be as engaging an experience as reading fiction when you choose the right books to match your teen’s interests. Which one of these will you read next?
About the Author:
Afoma is a twenty-something writer, editor, and voracious reader with an insatiable appetite for children’s literature, books by women, and articles about life and human relationships. In addition to my love affair with words, I dabble in photography, love to travel, and also happen to have completed medical school. Follow along with her recommendations on Reading Middle Grade.